USC's Mike Garrett says his record speaks for itself; agreed
O’Neill, the coach, was charming. Garrett, the athletic director who hired him was, uh… Garrett.
"I really felt elated about the fact that this is a person who was available," he droned in his usual monotone.
Of course, availability isn't the most exciting quality in most big coaching hires, but it was the first one Garrett listed. Perhaps that's understandable, considering how many coaches have turned him down for jobs at USC.
O'Neill glibly acknowledged that he wasn't the first choice for the position, then pointed to his wife and joked that he wasn't her first choice, either. But Garrett denied it, telling reporters later, "Kevin was my first choice because when I started talking to him, he's the one that I wanted to have. He's the guy who fit what I needed."
Which may have meant that he had a pulse and wanted the job.
Reminded that Floyd had been hired only after Rick Majerus quickly bailed, and that even Pete Carroll was third or fourth in line for the football job, Garrett said he had no problem making hires.
"If you want to pit my track record against other ones in winning across the board, I don't think there's even a question on that one," he said. "…I'll take my record against anybody's record."
Here's a look at that record:
- John Robinson, one of USC's most beloved coaches, was reportedly fired by Garrett over voicemail. While Garrett made several attempts to reach him, things ended so badly that Robinson held his own news conference in a downtown hotel.
- Garrett's first football hire was Paul Hackett, who guided the team to its only last-place finish in Pac-10 history.
- Garrett eventually hired Carroll, but only after the coach lobbied hard to get the job -- with help from senior associate athletic director Daryl Gross. Garrett swung and missed at Dennis Erickson, Mike Riley and perhaps even Mike Bellotti before turning to Carroll.
- Garrett hired Floyd after Majerus took the job and backed out a week later.
- Garrett hired O'Neill after being spurned by Jamie Dixon, Jeff Van Gundy, and Lon Kruger.
- Mark Trakh resigned as head coach of the women's basketball team, despite a 90-64 record and having built a roster that could include as many as six high-school All-Americans next season.
- Garrett replaced Trakh with Michael Cooper, who is coaching the WNBA’s Sparks through the summer and has no college coaching experience.
- Mike Gillespie was nudged out as USC's baseball coach only to be replaced by his own son-in-law, Chad Kreuter, who had little coaching experience — and none at the college level. Gillespie turned up at UC Irvine, guided the Anteaters to an NCAA Super Regional last year and a No. 1 national ranking this year, while the Trojans haven’t made the playoffs under Kreuter.
Hiring and firing is tough. But has any marquee hire gone smoothly since Garrett took over?
As long as football is winning maybe nobody cares.
-- Adam Rose
Photo: USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett looks on during a news conference announcing the hiring of men's basketball Coach Kevin O'Neill. Credit: Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times